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Coalition rebellion threatened as anger mounts in Commons over funding for rural communities

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 11, 2014

Somerton and Frome MP David Heath is among those demanding a better deal for rural communities

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Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have continued to pile pressure on the Government over the claimed "short-changing" of rural communities.

The Rural Fair Share campaign, being led by ministers from the shires, has argued urban councils receive 50 per cent more funding per head than rural authorities.

But their push for a semblance of parity only resulted in councils classed as being in sparse areas this year sharing a one-off £9.5 million grant – with one MP last night claiming one authority will get as little as £650.

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Some remain angry at the rebuttal, with the prospect of the most disillusioned voting against the Government's Finance Bill, which would represent a significant rebellion.

Speaking during a House of Commons debate on rural communities, Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, raised concerns over off-grid energy supply in rural areas, where there is often not enough competition between oil companies to drive down heating oil prices.

"Many constituents of ours will probably never get on to mains gas, but heating oil is an alternative," he said. "We have to get more competition and get the prices down for people in rural areas who use oil for their heating."

Ex-rural affairs minister David Heath, Liberal Democrat MP for Somerton and Frome, warned that without 100 per cent accessibility for high-speed broadband "we will do an immense disservice to people in very rural areas".

The MP said homes and businesses expected to miss out should be given funding available to ensure such accessibility, adding: "We want not a bidding system or matched funding, which is not available in rural areas, but the Government to finish the job."

Margaret Thatcher's former private secretary, Sir Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, criticised the so-called chattering classes for depicting rural life as idyllic.

He said: "I think there's altogether too rosy a picture of rural life, particularly in metropolitan circles. Some who write our national newspapers seem to think we all live in Cotswold villages, in lovely stone houses inhabited by media moguls having country lunches, or retired admirals."

Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: "The reality is that we have higher-than-average council tax, lower-than-average earnings and less money spent per head in the rural areas than in the urban areas."

Rural affairs minister Dan Rogerson said: "We need to change the approach towards assessing the longer-term funding needs of rural local authorities."

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  • gatfer  |  January 15 2014, 10:36PM

    Do you REALLY know what a United States of Europe means or are you being fooled by the same lies and diversions that have been put to you for over 40 years. As long as the main news topics talk about immigration, energy, economy, etc etc etc then this diverts attention away from the UK rapidly becoming a region of a United States of Europe. The UK nation is now threatened with destruction from Europe for the THIRD time in 100 years.This time it is the most serious threat that Britain has EVER had because most of the British public do not know about the threat ...... I suggest that you begin to wake up to this reality by looking at http://tinyurl.com/nz9fft7 ....... Only UKIP will enable the UK to leave the EU because the other main parties only TALK about it while their ACTIONS keep the UK in the EU because they are all europhiles ..... Do you really want to be governed by unknown unelected officials in Europe? I most certainly do not and that is why I have joined UKIP and will vote for UKIP ..... Thousands of others are doing the same because they, like myself, have woken up to how they have been betrayed.

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  • Charlespk  |  January 12 2014, 12:35PM

    Postal vote fraud: 50 criminal inquiries nationwide amid fears bogus voters could swing election. http://tinyurl.com/2eql4r2 (open in a new window)

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  • Charlespk  |  January 12 2014, 12:29PM

    There should never have been a coalition in the first place. It wasn't even an honest election result. . People are now only just waking up to the catastrophe that was the EU. . They can track your every movement with your mobile phones and like lemmings you just let them do it. . Get ready to be micro-chipped. . I suppose it's an advance on tattooing. "You vil do as we tell you!!" http://tinyurl.com/p63fkxf (open in a new window)

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  • Hugo_Jenks  |  January 11 2014, 1:35PM

    Significant cracks are showing in the coalition and getting worse. Seniour Lib Dems are cosying up to Labour. The truth is that the Lib Dem party is closer ideologically to Labour than to the Conservatives. The last three and a half years has been an exercise in papering over the cracks. Now that UKIP is on the rise, it is polarising the Lib Dems, who are fanatically pro-EU, and the more reasoned stance of some in the Conservative party. However this and other significant differences are doing neither party any favours.